The granddaughter of a 92-year-old woman who was allegedly murdered in New York City by an illegal immigrant who had been shielded from deportation pinned her death on the city’s sanctuary policy in an emotional speech on Friday, saying her death could have been avoided if the controversial policy was not in place.
“The tragedy in all of this is the fact that this could have been avoided, had there been no sanctuary law,” Daria Ortiz said. “The tragedy is my grandmother is not ever going to be here again.”
President Trump invited Ortiz, the granddaughter of Maria Fuertes, up to speak at the event at the National Border Patrol Council. Ortiz struggled through tears as she paid tribute to her grandmother as a “shining example of when people come legally to this country, work hard, and do the right thing and are law-abiding citizens.”
An immigrant from the Dominican Republic, Fuertes “raised her children and her grandchildren while working hard to give us a future,” Ortiz said.
Reeaz Khan, an illegal Guyanese immigrant, is accused of sexually assaulting and murdering Fuertes last month. Fuertes was reportedly found at 2 a.m. near death, before being taken to a hospital where she died from injuries including a broken spine. He has pleaded not guilty.
But the case has cast a spotlight on the dangers of “sanctuary” jurisdictions, which forbid local law enforcement from cooperating with federal immigration authorities when they issue a detainer -- a request that Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) be alerted of an illegal immigrant’s release from custody so they can be transferred into ICE custody and go through deportation procedures.
ICE revealed it had filed a detainer for Khan in November 2019, when he had been arrested on assault and weapons charges. But crucially, that detainer was ignored and Khan was released onto the streets.
Ortiz pinned the blame of Khan’s release on the city’s sanctuary policies and called for “preventative measures” to be put in place to ensure nothing similar could happen again.
“The man that is responsible for this should have never had the opportunity to do this, had his multiple offenses not been ignored,” she said. “The system not only failed our family but it failed our city.”
Trump and his administration have repeatedly brought attention to the case as part of a broader push against sanctuary jurisdictions. It has sparked a furious back-and-forth between Trump officials and New York politicians, who have claimed that such policies make the city safer. ICE has subpoenaed New York for information on Khan and other illegal immigrants arrested in the city.
“Not one more American life should be stolen by sanctuary cities, they’re all over the place and a lot of people don’t want them,” Trump said on Friday.
Trump also called out sanctuary policies in his State of the Union address earlier this month, where he highlighted Fuertes’ death and also introduced the brother of a man allegedly killed by an illegal immigrant in California.
He then called on Congress to pass legislation that would allow victims of crimes committed by illegal immigrants to sue sanctuary cities and states.
This week, Attorney General William Barr announced a slew of additional sanctions against sanctuary cities, in what he called a “significant escalation” against those left-wing jurisdictions.
Fox News’ Gregg Re and Barnini Chakraborty contributed to this report.